It’s delectably Boys’ Own Paper in style, from the moment the audience comes into the theatre to be glad-handed by the two very hard-working cast members. The stage is cluttered with cabin trunks and a whole heap of paraphernalia which miraculously in the course of the performance translates itself into the aircraft which somehow managed to make the first transatlantic flight.
But this show, written by Brian Mitchell and Joseph Nixon, does more than tell the story of John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown’s achievement. It takes us into those now-distant times punctuated by the First World War when international competition was fierce but not necessarily (or literally) cut-throat. And it also reminds us that those who write scripts sometimes blur the distinction between fact and fiction in the interests of providing a bankable story.
Richard Earl as Brown is the bouncy one of the two aviators; Ian Shaw has to be content with being something of a sidekick. Both work very hard, ad-libbing where appropriate, and carry the audience with them into the strange world in which Helen Fownes-Davies’ designs play such a crucial role. Tom Lishman’s soundscape is spot-on, with jaunty newsreel music alternating with strange echoes from an aerial terra incognita. The director is Daniel Buckroyd.